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Published January 12 2013

Following steps can improve chances of selling your home

MOORHEAD - The small, white home off Eighth Street South here sold in just 11 days.

That’s quick considering there are roughly 1,500 homes on the market in the Fargo-Moorhead area these days, according to Kari Myhre, a senior sales associate with Park Company Realtors in Fargo.

Myhre attributes the successful sale of that Moorhead home to staging, which makes a house more presentable for prospective buyers.

According to Myhre, one of the first and most important parts of staging a house is removing clutter. This can mean clearing off the kitchen counter, or removing or rearranging furniture so the home appears cleaner and more spacious.

At the Moorhead house, Myhre moved some extra kitchen chairs into other rooms for a more organized, less cluttered look.

While this may sound simple, Mary Goroski, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker, says removing clutter can be harder than homeowners may expect.

“It is very difficult to live what we consider uncluttered,” Goroski says. “It’s very difficult to keep your home ready to show at any moment.”

As part of the de-cluttering process, homeowners should also plan on packing up as many personal items as possible – “most things that you can absolutely live without,” Goroski says.

While the house is on the market, those items can be stored in a rented storage unit, or even just in a garage or basement.

That doesn’t mean everything should be moved out of a home while it’s on the market, though, especially for those who’ve already purchased a new house.

Rather, homes for sale should still have furniture in them. Myhre estimated that homes with furniture at the time of showings sell for 3 percent to 4 percent more money than homes without.

“Leave the furniture in the house when you’re trying to sell it,” she says.

The goal here, Goroski explains, is to make the home appear lived-in, but only minimally so.

If homeowners remove too much from their home, “it’s cold and hospital-like,” she says. If they remove too little, then it’s possible the buyers will remember the decorations more than the home itself.

Another important part of staging a home involves the carpet or paint. Carpet should at the very least be cleaned, or even replaced if necessary.

Paint should be “real neutral and appealing,” like beige or other off-white colors, Myhre says.

“Carpet and paint are your best bets” for making a home appealing and inviting for buyers, she adds.

Beyond removing the clutter and keeping the house clean for showings, Goroski says staging doesn’t need to be a huge project for a homeowner.

“Staging can be hand towels in the bathroom. It doesn’t have to be massive,” she says. “Staging is more strategic placement is how I think about it.”

For example, window covers can be opened to let in more light, or air fresheners can be left out to get rid of any odors.

Or, another staging trick Myhre likes is to move beds so they face in the direction of the bedroom door. She thinks this positioning can affect how someone perceives the room.

Pets, too, play a role during the staging process. Specifically, Myhre thinks a house on the market is better off without them.

“Not everyone loves animals,” she says. “It’s important to get rid of pets during the staging process, or at least remove them for showings.”

The same goes for the homeowners, who real estate agents say should not be around when the house is being shown.

“If you’re a homeowner and you’re living in your house, I say lights on, good smells, and please be gone,” Myhre says.

Once the house has been staged, take pictures of various rooms and get them online. Myhre estimates that 90 percent of people “shop” for homes on the Internet before they actually contact a real estate agent.

It’s also important to make the home’s exterior presentable. Small things, like a wreath on the door or replacing the house address numbers, can make a difference.

And be sure to keep the outside light on at night, so if people drive by to check out the house they’re able to see the house number.

Of course, even with staging, not all houses will sell as quickly as the Moorhead house. Myhre estimates it usually takes closer to 90 days for a house to sell.

But if homeowners follow the steps of staging to make their home warm and inviting, they improve their chances of selling sooner than that.

“The more you do, the better off you are,” Myhre says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535